Tag Archives: Slave of the Swan

Jinty 15 July 1978

jinty-15-july-1978

  • Dance into Darkness (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thorton-Jones)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince – final episode (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • The Lowdown on Showaddywaddy – feature
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Sand in Your Shoes? – Feature
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

“Dance into Darkness” featured on a lot of Jinty covers and this week’s one is no exception. This week Della can’t stop dancing when she hears disco music, and it’s kept her out so late that her parents have called the police.

“The Zodiac Prince” ends his run this week. He’s down to his last astral gift, and this time he really must choose wisely in terms of recipient and the type of gift. Well, he can’t think of anyone more deserving than Shrimp, and we certainly agree. Talk about a parting gift! Next week sees the return of Phil Gascoine, whose artwork has been uncharacteristically missing from Jinty for weeks, as he starts on “The Changeling”.

Dorrie and Max are on the run as they make their way to the home in Scotland that they believe will give them happiness. This week they sneak a lift aboard a lorry to get out of London.

Pat does some running away too – away from her mother’s abusive household and back to the foster family who looked after her properly. However, Mum sends the police to get her back. Will they do so or will they listen to Pat’s side of things?

The kids at Berkeley Comprehensive are softening towards Clancy and she begins to make friends with them. But grandfather tells Clancy she must replace the bicycle Sandra sold to get the tandem, which means job-hunting for the girl who’s already got so much on her plate with trying to walk again.

Cathy’s father agrees to run some medical tests on Denis to see if there is a medical cause for his slowness. Finally, someone is listening to Cathy’s insistence that Denis is not as daft as everyone assumes. Meanwhile, the old trouble with Diane’s horse resurfaces as he goes out of control at the races.

The Swan well and truly shows just how evil she has become in the name of revenge against Katrina’s mother. She tricks Katrina into going into a rusty old tub that she will drown in once the tide rises. But it’s not just to protect herself from the police – the murder she is plotting is more revenge against Katrina’s mother, and she wants to play it out as slowly as possible to savour every minute of it. Katrina does not wake up to the danger she is in until the tide does rise…but is it too late?

Sue tells Henrietta that standing on her head is good therapy and sets Henrietta upside-down to prove her point. Naturally, that’s an open invitation for Henrietta mischief.

Jinty 1 July 1978

jinty-1-july-1978

  • Dance into Darkness (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thorton-Jones)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Andy Gibb Talks to You – Feature
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Not to be Sniffed At! Ways with Hankies – Feature

 

Whatever is happening to Della gets weirder, and she is surprised to find some of it is positive. She can see much better in the dark, and night itself seems much more comfortable. Oddly, cats are following her around at night.

Sue takes Henrietta on a London trip. But Henrietta doesn’t quite understand that the name Piccadilly Circus does not mean a three-ring circus. Or that waxworks are not meant to be that lifelike. Or that changing the guard does not mean changing his nappies! Oh, dear…

Dorrie and Max have been put in separate homes, but at least Dorrie can visit Max and they are still looking for the end of the rainbow. Max is taking that bit about the end of the rainbow a bit literally, though.

Janet is finding out the pitfalls of the paper round she is now lumbered with instead of Pat. Then the sneaky girl steals the swimsuit that was meant to be a present for Pat from her foster parents.

The Zodiac Prince has got real trouble this time – his chain has snapped and he’s lost his medallion! The Prince and Shrimp find a little girl has it, and they have to get it back quick.

“The Slave of the Swan” is really disturbed to find that new girl Rita Hayes is watching her and asking probing questions about her. And someone is definitely messing around with that Swan costume, which is supposed to be hidden away in Miss Kachinsky’s secret room. Katrina finds somebody wearing the costume and trying to recreate “The Swan” ballet.

In “Cathy’s Casebook” Diane, who was supposed to have a limp, is suddenly running. She had been faking because her father is pushing her into riding in the races, but she’s too frightened of her horse to do so. And then Denis runs away from home. Cathy hits on a way to tackle both problems at once.

Clancy enrols herself at Berkeley Comprehensive, the school her grandfather looks down upon (with some justification, as it is riddled with vandalism). The kids there don’t think much of grandfather either. They say he’s a skinflint and a snob who never does anything for anybody. So when they find out he is Clancy’s grandfather, they look set to give her a bad time.

 

Jinty 24 June 1978

jinty-cover-24-june-1978

  • Dance into Darkness (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thorton-Jones)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Talking Personally to Travolta… (feature)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

Weird things are happening to Della that she can’t explain. She has suddenly woken up with all light blinding her and she has to wear dark glasses, and she can’t stop dancing when she hears disco music. People think she’s putting it on, but Della realises it must have something to do with that girl in the disco. And it has to be, because the girl is waiting for her outside the school gates.

Sue tries out the trumpet, much to Henrietta’s consternation. However, Henrietta’s spells to stop Sue playing are rebounding a bit on her. She gets scratched by a terrified cat and then gets mud splattered all over her.

In “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Dorrie and Max are liberated from the cruel Mrs Soper when she dumps them back on the welfare office. But now Dorrie and Max are being split up because the children’s home they are being sent to segregates the sexes. If it’s not one thing it’s something else…

One of the girls at school begins to realise how badly Janet is treating Pat though the other girls still won’t have anything to do with Pat because Janet poisoned them against her. Then the tables get turned on Janet when she’s lumbered with the paper round Mum lumbered Pat with before!

The Zodiac Prince’s in trouble again because he is still not thinking before he hands out his astral gifts. Dad gives him a real telling off over it, but says he still has to stay put until he finishes the job set for him.

“The Slave of the Swan” saves her only friend Sarah from being badly burned, but everyone thinks she caused it because of all the lies the Swan has spread about her being an arsonist. Now it’s all getting to Katrina so much that she sees police pursuing her everywhere – including a strange woman who has turned up at the school.

Cathy is still pursuing the cases of Denis, whom she does not believe is as dim as everyone thinks, and Diane, who is still limping although her X-ray says her leg is fine. Now both cases could come to a head when Denis walks into the path of a runaway horse.

Clancy’s still walking with sticks and is having trouble enrolling at a new school because of it. She won’t hear of a disabled school and St Catherine’s, the school cousin Sandra goes to, won’t take her because of her disability. So she decides it has to be the ill-reputed Berkeley Comprehensive or nothing. But grandfather is going to have a fit when he hears that!

Jinty 20 May 1978

jinty-cover-20-may-1978

  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow – first episode (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Get in the Swim! Competition
  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Knight and Day – first episode
  • A-to-Z of Things to Do – part one
  • Clancy on Trial – first episode (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Snow in Summer – feature

The advertising for Jinty’s new competition and her A-to-Z of things to do has pushed the story panels right off the cover. There’s only a blurb at the bottom to say that three new stories have started. It looks like the pull-out feature, competition and stories have pushed out “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” and “Alley Cat” out of the issue; neither appears this week.

The first new story, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, pushes “Concrete Surfer” out of her usual slot as leading story. The episode is also a four-pager, which gets it off to quite a start. It seems fitting as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” went on to be one of Jinty’s most enduring and longest stories. It was the last of the three Jinty serials to be set in World War II. As the story opens, the war is drawing to a close. VE Day is in sight, wartime restrictions are easing a bit, and the Peters family are looking forward to the day when Dad comes home from the war. But of a sudden Mum gets the dreaded envelope that means KIA.

The second new story is “Knight and Day” (a popular play on one girl being named Day and the other Knight in a serial). Pat Day’s mother has always neglected her and she is now happily fostered out to the Hargreaves. But now, all of a sudden, the neglectful mother (now Mrs Knight under her new marriage) has successfully applied to get her back. But why would she even bother?

The artist for the third new story, “Clancy on Trial”, is a surprise. It’s Ron Lumsden, who is best remembered for being the first artist on “The Comp”. Clancy Clarke is determined to walk again after being crippled in an accident and is getting help from her cousin Sandra. All of a sudden, Clancy’s grandfather, who had ignored her before, suddenly takes an interest in her. As with Pat’s mother it sounds suspicious, but at least we get an inkling of his motives – to put her to some sort of test.

In the other stories, “The Zodiac Prince” hands out another astral gift, and this time it works out. Julie is now happily reunited with her father and, thanks to the astral gift, is now joining him at the circus. Unfortunately it pushed out another performer and now she’s jealous.

“The Slave of the Swan” is finally beginning to remember bits of her past. But the Swan is getting set to ensnare her again, and she’s already pulled the wool over the eyes of the police who were getting on her trail at last.

In “Cathy’s Casebook” Dad is hauled up before the medical board on an unfair charge of neglecting a patient, thanks to the old trout of a district nurse who judged him too harshly and wouldn’t listen to pleas that Dad was overworked and feeling unwell. But Cathy makes sure the medical board listens to her over them! The nurse looks veerry sour indeed when Cathy gets the charge against her father dismissed.

“Concrete Surfer” finally catches creepy Carol out once and for all. She tricks Carol into admitting that she stole her skateboard. Not that it would do much good in the competition – Jean can’t compete unless she finds the skateboard.

 

Jinty 13 May 1978

jinty-cover-13-may-1978

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Wednesday’s Child – Gypsy Rose story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • The Birds – final episode (artist Keith Robson, writer Len Wenn)
  • The Cinderella Story of Sneh Gupta– Feature
  • Shadow on the Fen – final episode (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Make a Sunflower Shoulder Bag – Feature

 

Gypsy Rose is back this week, but she’s clearly being used as a filler. Her run in Jinty was nowhere as regular or as solid as the Storyteller’s in June/ Tammy. Her story features a kid brother who strikes up an unusual friendship with what turns out to be the ghost of another boy who was starved to death by his aunt.

Next week “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” starts, and its announcement is unusual. It’s on the letters page, in response to one reader who wrote in to say that “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was her all-time favourite Jinty story (perhaps she was one of the many readers in Pam’s Poll who voted for its reprint). The editor informs the reader that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is penned by the same author as Stefa (now that’s quite a lead-in) and “it’s making us all have a lovely cry at the office!”

Jinty also announces that “Clancy on Trial” starts next week as well. So this week we see the final episodes of “The Birds” and “Shadow on the Fen”. The ending of “The Birds” is grim, with the parents plummeting to their deaths in the car because of those crazy birds and that chemical factory that has driven them crazy. In “Shadow on the Fen”, the Witchfinder is reduced to just bones and then dust after being struck by… well, it’s not quite clear if it is the power of the holy cross or the falling wishing tree that lands on top of him. But it is quite reminiscent of how a vampire is destroyed.

Jean almost walks out on the skateboarding club but changes her mind. And she’s beginning to suss Carol out; she can’t stand being on the losing side and being second best. She always has to be the winner and centre of attention. So Jean’s quite pleased there’s going to be a skateboarding competition where she can settle things with Carol once and for all.

Katrina Vale, “The Slave of the Swan”, overhears the story of how the Swan got crippled: the story goes that a friend got jealous of her final triumph in “The Swan” role and injured her deliberately. We realise they can only mean Katrina’s mother. But from our brief glimpse of Mrs Vale as a sympathetic character way back in part one, can we really believe she would do such a thing? Meanwhile, the police are finally on the trail of the missing Katrina. Will they be able to rescue her from the Swan?

Sue calls upon Henrietta’s help to cook a meal for her friends, but finds she would have been better off doing it herself.

The Zodiac Prince sets out to help a girl who’s got circus in her blood, but her snooty aunt is keeping her away from it.

Being a doctor’s daughter pays off dividends for Cathy – she gets to see her favourite pop star in person when he needs a doctor. Cathy also finds a way to cheer up sourpuss Tom while he’s in hospital, though it flouts hospital rules.

 

Jinty 6 May 1978

jinty-cover-6-may-1978

The Concrete Surfer finds sneaky Carol cheated to put up the winning design for their skateboard tee shirts. She’s now so fed up with smarmy Carol being Miss Bainbridge’s pet that she wants to walk out on the skateboard club.

A woman gets on Sue’s nerves with her bossiness and endless spouting of old proverbs, and Sue reckons the woman doesn’t even know what those proverbs mean. Oohh, sounds like an open invitation for Henrietta to hand out another lesson with her mischief-making magic.

The Swan is up to mischief of an even more nasty nature. She’s poisoning her own pupils against Katrina with false stories and sneaky tricks to make Katrina look a thief in order to turn them against her because they were trying to help her. At least Sarah is still friendly and is treating Katrina to a ballet performance.

It’s the final episode of “Waking Nightmare”. Phil realises she should have heeded newspaper reports that Carol was not quite right in the head. But Carol’s mother admits it was partly her fault for concealing it because she was ashamed to let people know her daughter was mentally ill. Phil helps Carol overcome her fear of doctors and everything works out happily.

“The Birds” is on its penultimate episode, and it’s only the second one. There was so much scope to make this Hitchcock-inspired story longer, so why did they just keep it at three episodes?

“Shadow on the Fen” is clearly nearing its end as we’re told the story will reach its climax next week. This week The Witchfinder attacks Mrs Perks, the only ally of Linden and Rebecca. At least they manage to get hold of his book, the second magic artefact they have to destroy to destroy him. However, he managed to get away with his last artefact, the magic knife.

Cathy saves the life of a critically ill man, but the old sourpuss isn’t showing her any gratitude. Dad takes her out for a treat, but there could be a surprise when someone asks if there is a doctor in the house.

The Zodiac Prince is trying to work out what’s upsetting the clown he’s standing in for. Then he and Shrimp find a photograph that could be a clue.

 

Jinty 22 April 1978

jinty-cover-22-april-1978

Last week Jean believed she had finally seen through Carol as “a smarmy little creep!” But she repents when Carol really puts on the waterworks. Did she really hurt Carol’s feelings or has the smarmy little creep worked her way around her again? Meanwhile, Jean takes on some advice to bring some rhythm and flow into her skateboarding and is making progress. However, could Carol be trying to discreetly undermine it?

In “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” some bullies always pick on a girl and call her names. Naturally, Henrietta decides to give them a taste of their own medicine, which gets a bit out of hand. They end up in detention, but it’s a fitting punishment for bullying.

The Swan has made a slip that she knew the slave’s parents. But she twists it around with another lie: the slave’s parents died in prison for theft and she may have inherited their bad ways. It’s an old trick in “amnesiac” serials and it does what the Swan intended: the slave becomes demoralised and begins to doubt herself.

Carol comes to the rescue of Phil, who’s under a pile of debris. However, Carol seems to be going to pieces because the debris is reminding her of something.

The Zodiac Prince casts a spell on a girl to make her attractive to animals. It was meant to save her from a tiger, but it backfires when every single animal in town follows the girl all the way home, and the spell starts messing things up at the circus as well. Father tells the Prince he can’t remove the spell, so he suggests another to modify the first. But will it work out?

It’s the final episode of “Paula’s Puppets”. Paula’s in a cross-country race but isn’t up to it with nobody to support her. Then, all of a sudden, Dad is there to cheer her on. But he’s supposed to be in prison! What gives?

Linden manages to get the plant to cure Rebecca, despite the Witchfinder trying to stop her by turning himself into the largest rat you ever saw. Next they learn how to stop the Witchfinder – destroy his three magic items – but they have to track them down first.

Cathy thinks her father needs a break and leaves the phone off the hook so he won’t be disturbed. But this could lead to real trouble if there is an emergency…

 

Jinty 15 April 1978

jinty-cover-15-april-1978

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Waking Nightmare (artist Phil Townsend)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Paula’s Puppets (artist Julian Vivas)
  • Idol By Name (Billy Idol feature)
  • Shadow on the Fen (artist Douglas Perry)
  • The Revenge of Peter-the-Fisherman! (writer C. Mitchell, artist Keith Robson) Text story competition entry
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • “Sunny” Sparklers – feature

Jean is furious to discover Carol has been muscling in on her skateboard territory by secretly learning to skateboard as well. And she reckons she’s finally seen through sweet-faced Carol too – “you’re a smarmy little creep!” But has Carol finally been defeated?

Sue asks Henrietta for a spell to help her win a balloon race, though she admits she should know better than that. Sure enough, Henrietta makes the punishment fit the crime.

The Swan’s revenge on Katrina is getting worse and worse. She’s tricked Katrina into wearing heavy boots to stop her dancing and then she just about breaks Katrina’s fingers when she slams a piano lid on them. At least the other girls are wising up and trying to help Katrina. But what comes of it remains to be seen.

Life on the run in “Waking Nightmare!” reaches the climax when Phil has a serious accident and now she’s trapped under a pile of debris, with nobody to hear her screams for help, and there’s no sign of Carol.

“Paula’s Puppets” has reached its penultimate episode. The puppets have led Paula to a piece of evidence that is supposed to clear her father. Unfortunately Paula can’t understand what the hell it is about.

The Zodiac Prince takes a job as a fortune teller at a funfair, and with the help of his father predicts a terrible thunderstorm is going to hit. Pity the father didn’t also predict a tiger getting loose because of the storm damage, which puts a little girl in danger.

Rebecca’s been injured by the Witchfinder’s blade and could bleed to death from its poison. The only way to save her is to venture into Barberry Fen to get a certain flower – but that is where the Witchfinder is at his strongest!

Cathy’s been advised to work with her doctor father in order to get closer to him. So she joins a first aid class – but she didn’t expect her father to be the instructor!

Jinty 8 July 1978

Jinty 8 July 1978

Stories in this issue:

  • Dance into Darkness (unknown artist Concrete Surfer)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

The cover image isn’t taken from an image inside this week’s episode of “Dance Into Darkness” – I am not sure without checking whether it is actually from next week’s episode, though I think it must be. It makes a fine spooky, gothic cover, and I love the little black cats winding their way around Della’s ankles.

Della Benson is starting to find out where her mysterious dancing skills have come from – along with her love of the dark and of the creatures of the night, such as the cats. What secret does the strange lady and her daughter hold?

Dorrie and Max run away from the grim chidren’s homes they have been placed in – they have found out that there is a place called “Rainbow’s End”, in Scotland, and they think it must be a sign that they will find their happiness there. It’s a rainy start, but they feel sure they can manage the long trek north.

“Knight and Day” is one of the grimmest, most realistic stories ever printed in Jinty. Pat Day was fostered to a loving couple but when her mother tried to get her back then she had to go – even though it all turned out to be a scam. Her mother and stepfather are abusive and uncaring, and Pat’s new stepsister is a bully and a thief.

“The Zodiac Prince” is a rare strip featuring a male lead character – though you could argue that his friend and sidekick Shrimp is the real lead, in some ways. It’s a light-hearted romp but it is coming to an end – this is the penultimate episode and Shrimp is nearly due to find out who the Prince really is and where he comes from.

In “Clancy on Trial”, Clancy has enrolled herself in the local comprehensive school, to force her grandfather to see that she can live as independent a life as possible without relying on him and his money. The schoolkids are not that friendly though.

“Slave of the Swan” is a pretty nasty slave story – Katrina Vale has lost her memory and is being very badly treated by Miss Kachinsky, who hated Katrina’s mother with great passion. Katrina is now in great danger as Miss Kachinsky tries to cover her tracks!

“Cathy’s Casebook” has doctor’s daughter Cathy cure Diana of her nerves when riding a particular horse she’d started to get afraid of. Next on Cathy’s list is wild runaway Denis. Will she find out what ails him, too?

Following my recent post on “The Mighty One”, where Steve MacManus mentioned the fact that editors of the time often thought in terms of stories filling a certain number of panels / frames / pictures, I thought I would count up the number of panels in a sample issue of Misty and one of Jinty, for comparison. (If I can also do the same for a typical issue of 2000AD from the time then I will, but right now it’s hard for me to dig out my old copies of other titles.)

Of the stories in this issue, this is how the panel count breaks down:

  • Dance Into Darkness – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 9 panels (25 panels)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 9 panels (17 panels)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow – pg 1 7 panels, pg 2 10 panels, pg 3 7 panels (24 panels)
  • Alley Cat – pg 1 12 panels (12 panels)
  • Knight and Day – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 8 panels (25 panels)
  • The Zodiac Prince – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 9 panels (26 panels)
  • Clancy on Trial – pg 1 6 panels, pg 2 10 panels, pg 3 10 panels (26 panels)
  • Slave of the Swan – pg 1 7 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 9 panels (25 panels)
  • Cathy’s Casebook – pg 1 6 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 9 panels (24 panels)
  • = 24 pages of comics, 9 stories. Minimum number of panels = 6, max = 10 on a serial or 12 on a gag strip

I know this is not a huge sample to use, but I have compared to the issue of Misty with the same cover date of 8 July 1978

  • The Four Faces of Eve… – pg 1 3 panels, pg 2 6 panels, pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 10 panels (serial) (25 panels)
  • Nightmare – ‘Master-Stroke’ pg 1 3 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 2 panels (complete story) (20 panels)
  • Journey Into Fear – pg 1 4 panels, pg 2 7 panels, pg 3 8 panels, pg 4 6 panels (serial) (25 panels)
  • Wrong Station – pg 1 4 panels, pg 2 7 panels,  pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 7 panels (complete) (25 panels)
  • Beasts – ‘Where There’s a Will…’ – pg 1 4 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 7 panels (complete) (26 panels)
  • The Black Widow – pg 1 2 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 8 panels, pg 4 8 panels (serial) (26 panels)
  • = 24 pages of comics, 6 stories. Minimum number of panels = 2, max = 10

All the stories in Misty, whether they are serials or complete stories, are 4 pages long rather than just 3. There are fewer stories but it adds up to the same number of pages of comics. Each story has pretty much the same number of panels whether it is a 3 page Jinty story or a 4 page Misty one (though in Jinty the single page gag strip and the two page complete stories are certainly shorter in panel count). And the pattern in Misty is pretty striking and consistent, in this issue at least – the first page of each story has a considerably reduced panel count (so that the panels that are left can be large and visually striking) whereas subsequent pages are only very slightly shorter than a typical Jinty page in terms of the average number of panels used (and therefore the size of each one).

Misery Loves Company, or, the sadomasochism of readers?

Attendees at talks like the Comix Creatrix event have a tendency to marvel at the prevalence of stories about misery, cruelty, and slavery in girls comics. It’s particularly the case that, if the attendee is someone who isn’t steeped in reading stories in this genre, they may well bring out loaded words or phrases referring to the ‘sadomasochism’ in the stories, or they may indicate that something is a bit ‘dodgy’ or ‘ooh-er’ (at the end of the talk this came in with discussions of “War Orphan Farm” and “Slave of Form 3B“). I’m not immune to this effect either – in earlier days I have certainly referred to slave stories with wink-wink innuendo, for instance. But it’s not true to the material being referred to, and what’s more I think that it plays into the wrong hands, as I will explain below.

Girls comics feature a lot of cruelty, misery, and slavery, it’s true. Mistyfan’s post on the Slave Story theme gives a relevant run-down of how a large subsection of girls’ stories worked, including a range of examples. We haven’t even given misery and cruelty any specific categories of their own in our list of themes, but they are clearly part of the more discrete story themes of Affliction, Bullying, Cinderella, Guilt Complex, and Troublemaker, to name only a few. Stories frequently feature mental domination, abuse, and physical brutality; may include handcuffs and ropes; and occasionally allow the death of the main character. And these are not incidental aspects of the stories – they are the main reason for them, the thing that makes them popular and memorable. A story may continue for half a year or more with the protagonist growing more and more hard-done-by, and the resolution typically only comes in the last episode or even the last few panels. It’s hardly surprising that this is so much a feature of discussions of girls comics when it comes up outside the confines of a blog like this.

But does this mean either that the stories are full of sadomasochism, or that the readers were secret sadists or masochists to enjoy them in such numbers? I’d say no, to both.

If you look at the stories themselves, and the experiences of the protagonists within then, they are just not stories of sadomasochism. For a start, they’re not overtly sexual (no publisher of the time in the UK would have countenanced that, of course, though as has been pointed out by Paul Gravett, the Shojo manga publishing phenomenon in Japan at around the same time was able to go down this route). They’re not covertly sexual either (not that I think girls of that age and in that era particularly went for hidden innuendo – we passed around Lace and The Thorn Birds, and of course we all devoured the Flowers In The Attic series). Fundamentally the stories of cruelty/slavery , even though they can spark associations of BDSM to the adult reader, weren’t about submission. The protagonists didn’t learn to enjoy being humiliated or dominated by their rivals: it was just that they were not strong enough to win against the villain or the society they were in. It’s a trope about powerlessness and fighting back even when it’s hopeless: eventually, even though it seems terribly unlikely, you may win. That’s a message of strength to young girls, collectively one of the least powerful groups in all society.

Slave stories end with the slave being freed and reinstated, and the villain reformed or defeated. (See the Tammy blog’s post about Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” where all eventually ends happily.) There are some stories where the slave accepts the brainwashing of the antagonist at points, and believes she deserves her punishment (Jinty‘s “Slave of the Swan” includes this plot element), but clearer eyes than the deluded protagonist see through this deception and it is not seriously proposed as something that the protagonist should believe. These are not stories with hidden subtexts of the delights of submission to loving authority in the way that Marston’s Wonder Woman stories were.

There are also a large number of tear-jerker stories which get mentioned as part of this idea of the sadomasochism of girls comics. I think here the feeling is that because such stories are so focused on misery, it is sadistic, or possibly masochistic, of the girl reader to enjoy them so much. Some of the obvious key contenders from the massively popular misery / tear-jerker trope are:

  • “No Time for Pat” in Jinty Annual 1980. Originally printed in June (1972)
  • Stefa’s Heart of StoneJinty (1976), reprinted in Princess / Tammy & Princess (1984)
  • DC Thomson’s “AngelMandy (1977) reprinted three times, with two subsequent sequels One of the few misery stories that takes the story through to the death of the protagonist, but as she was suffering from a terminal disease this feels like a naturalistic and almost uplifting ending – you could say she ‘wins’
  • Nothing Ever Goes RightJudy (1981) Reprinted (1989-90) Another exception of a misery story in which the protagonist dies in the end. (Edited to add: written by Maureen Hartley – see comments on Girls Comics of Yesterday)

These stories don’t really have a specific villain, though some other similar ones may do. The cause of the misery is often simply cruel fate. Possibly because cruel fate is much less personal, it is sometimes carried through to the logical conclusion whereby the protagonist dies in end: something that you can’t really do with a slave story because then the villain would win. (Unless anyone knows of a counter-example?)

Clearly girl readers loved a good cry! But why label the readers so strongly, bandying around terms like masochist? Didn’t the Victorians also love sentimental sob stories? What about classical tragedy, which far more often ends in unswerving death? Or indeed devotees of East Enders or the Archers? Consumers of these stories don’t get the same labels. I can only see it coming down to the policing of girls’ reading – it falls outside our expectations of what girls should read, and so we boggle at it more than at Victorian sob stories. If we fall in with this policing of ‘appropriate’ reading we play into the hands of authority’s disapproval of comics. Sometimes that manifests itself relatively mildly, as when Mary Cadogan complained about lurid death scenes in girls comics, citing “No Time For Pat” as an example (incorrectly, in fact) and using that as a lever to indicate that all girls comics were of low worth. At the other end of the spectrum, Frederick Wertham used his assertions of inappropriate themes and images to press for wide-ranging ‘reform’ of comic book publishing and the implementation of the US Comic Book Code.